Launching the CSS Workshop Online

For the last couple of years, I’ve been touring around a CSS Layout Workshop, based mostly on the newer CSS modules that I covered in my book. I also have created a large amount of material for CSS beginners about existing layout methods.

With several bookings already for 2016, I decided to completely revise that material ready for Fluent in March, where I’ll be doing a 2-day version of the course taking people right through from the basics of layout to these new and exciting emerging techniques. I enjoy presenting the workshop in person, and if you would like some in-house training or have a conference workshop slot then do get in touch.

As useful as in-person presentations are, I’m also aware that getting to a workshop at a conference is not possible for everyone. Workshop tickets attract a high price tag plus the cost of travel and time out of the office. Each time I have presented the course I’ve had emails from people asking if the material is also available to watch online. Therefore, at the same time as revising and adding to the material for my 2016 live workshops, I am also creating a version that can be accessed and worked through online, at your own pace. I have quietly pre-launched that at The CSS Workshop. I’ve made available a couple of short modules on CSS selectors and length units, covering things that are important to understand before launching into learning layout. They should help give a flavour of how the rest of the course will work. You can sign up, and I’ll let you know once the full course is available for purchase. I expect that to be sometime in January 2016.

The logistics of selling an online course

When I decided I was going to make this material available online I did some research into the possibilities for technically doing that.

There are online training providers to whom I could have pitched the material. However, I wanted to keep control over the format of the course. In order to not double my work I was keen to keep the examples consistent between online and in-person training, if I update one version of the material that should improve both. Being tied to someone else’s format would restrict that. In particular with the newer CSS modules, things change fast. I wanted to make sure I had the opportunity to keep things up to date so people could be sure that if changes were made to the spec I would update the material too.

In addition I would lose the ability to sell and promote the course the way I wanted, I’d be tied to the business model of another provider.

There are online course hosting services such as Teachable. These leave you with control of your material and promotion but deal with the delivery and sales of the course – for a percentage of the sale price. I did take a serious look at hosting with Teachable as they have some nice functionality. Launching the course through them would mean I just had to concentrate on writing the course, not delivering it too. That was definitely tempting and would be a route that would suit a lot of people.

I decided not to go with Teachable or another provider partly because of the need to prepare the material in a format that would work for their tools. Once again, I’m trying to maintain parity between that which I present in person and the material that is delivered online.

Eating my own dogfood

The biggest reason I didn’t go with the simplest option of an online provider is that, while I’ve been considering putting this material online, over at Perch we’ve been in the final stages of the Perch Shop “gamma”. Perch Shop is a fully featured e-commerce solution for Perch and Perch Runway.

Like Runway, Shop has a toolkit approach to content and e-commerce management. It can be used for a standard shop selling physical items, but that’s not all. Due to being linked to the Perch Members App, Shop can be used to sell memberships to courses and material, or for downloads of digital products. Having Perch Shop almost ready to go made my decision a lot easier. We’ve got a solution that has all of the flexibility I need to sell an online course, keeping the material in formats that can easily be used for both presentations. I also get the chance to build a fully worked, live implementation of something using our own product. I don’t often get to do that!

I expect that I’ll write more about the logistics of creating a course using Perch Runway – either here or over on the Perch Blog. However getting my free material online was simple using the Categories and Collections. All of the lesson material is stored as a Collection in Runway, making it easy for me to use bits of that content as excerpts in listings. I also put together a simple App for ConvertKit – the provider I’m using for the pre-launch email list. I’ll tidy that up and make it available to other Perchers in the next few days.

If you are interested in learning more about CSS Layout, take a look at the workshop contents and sign up on the site, and I’ll keep you up to date with the launch.

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